Second Special Session on Heat Health


Hyperthermia Deaths of Children in Vehicles

Jan Null, Golden Gate Weather Services, Fremont, CA

Each year an average of 32 children die from hyperthermia after being left unattended in motor vehicles. In 2004 the total was 35 while 2003 saw 42 infant and small child fatalities due to vehicular hyperthermia. Since 1998 there have been 251 such child fatalities; considerably more than the 178 persons of all ages who have died due to hurricanes in the United States in that same period.

Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature (CBT) reaches approximately 104 degrees F and the bodies' thermoregulatory system can't keep up with the stress. CBT's of 107 or greater are often fatal. The problem is exacerbated with children because their body temperature rises at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than adults.

Previous research showed the temperature rise in vehicles is significant when the ambient temperature is greater than 90oF. This study evaluated a much broader spectrum of temperatures. It showed that even with relatively mild ambient temperatures that temperature rises in enclosed vehicles were significant and very rapid, putting children in extreme danger of hyperthermia.

This paper will also address some of the circumstances behind these incidents, how these cases fit into the overall gathering of “heat” related deaths nationwide and how these cases may (or may not) be prosecuted.


Session 2, System Implementation and Intervention Activities to Lessen Heat/Health Problems
Monday, 30 January 2006, 10:45 AM-12:15 PM, A310

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